While I had no interest in getting off the boat in Nassau, doing so on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, was another matter entirely. That Disney owns an island makes it just as much of an attraction as the ship itself.
Even though I had been on the ship for nearly 48 hours at that point, I couldn't help but spend a little time observing it from the pier once we got off. It's really impressive. The Dream's black hull, yellow accents, big round portholes and of course, Sorcerer Mickey hanging off the back, really make it an attractive ship. It's a far cry from the boxy and hideous Norwegian Epic that pulled up along side of us the day before in Nassau.
The water and the beaches around Castaway Cay are basically everything you've seen in postcard pictures. (For the kids, postcards are little photos you used to mail to people. Speaking of which, there's a post office on the pier so you can send stuff with a Castaway Cay stamp on it.) The white sand and light blue water are incredible. That water seemed oddly cold, as did the sand, but I never went in much beyond my ankles. Tropical fish scurry about in the shallow water, which is very smooth due in part to the barrier a few hundred yards off shore. The beaches have thousands of beach chairs, along with hammocks and umbrellas. It's really something to behold.
They have super expensive cabanas for rental, souvenir shops, some water slides, snorkeling, boat rentals and bars. The food service is buffet style, similar to what you find on the ship. There are two locations, and each one has massive picnic pavilions.
Truth be told, I'm not much of a beach person, and Simon is still reluctant to enter the water. That's frustrating. Perhaps it's for the best, as the Family Puzzoni is a bit on the fair-skinned side. While the rest of the family spent more time out there, we were back on the ship before 2. All three of us took a little nap.
Our final dinner was in the Animator's Palate restaurant. The restaurant rotation is somewhat random, but this was easily the best saved for last. It's located aft on deck 3, clearly not far from the rear engine rooms, which you can feel. There are no windows. However, when you enter the restaurant, it's brightly lit, with images of animation and sketches all around the room. The chairs are colored in a Mickey pattern, and the columns are huge paintbrushes. It felt like a big tribute to animation, though video screens seemed unnecessary.
After sitting, Helen Ann mentioned to me that she thought the restaurant was tacky. Not two minutes later, the lighting changes to blue, bubbles roll up over all of the video screens, and we see Finding Nemo characters swimming about on all of them. Before you know it, Crush appears on the screen behind our table, and he starts talking with us. He says hi to Simon, and comments how Nina is "the cutest thing ever, shya!" He also asks where Helen Ann is sitting, and shares calls her out for saying the restaurant was tacky. Loved it. From there, Crush swam off to talk to other tables. It was absolutely brilliant.
After teaching all of the kids in the restaurant to swim in the EAC, dinner arrived. I had an organic lemon-herb chicken breast that was one of the most perfect pieces of chicken I've ever had. The mashed potatoes under it were silky smooth and unbelievably delicious. For dessert, a classic ice cream sundae with brownie under it. It was fantastic. Our amazing waiters again scored some "uncrustables" for Simon, and he ate well.
As I said before, the last show, Believe, was really well done. Before leaving the area, I picked up a new polo shirt with the DCL logo, as well as a souvenir book about the making of the ship. Yeah, it's a glorified brochure, but whatever. I wanted it.
With Simon well rested, we decided to take one more spin around the ship before going to bed. We started with a lap around the exterior of deck 4. It's the only continuous loop around the entire ship, and if you do a little more than 2 laps, you'll go a mile. While we had been in the interior spaces, it was the first time outside on that deck since the safety drill the afternoon we boarded. While the big heavy life boats overhead scare me, it's a very neat place to be closer to the water while the ship is underway. Oddly, the doors on the starboard side were all closed due to wind.
From there, we went all the way back up to deck 11, as Diana had not seen it at night. There were only a few people up there, watching the nightly movie on funnelvision. Of course, we needed one last hit from Luigi's Pizza. It was delicious.
Simon had such a good time on the ship. Yes, a lot of his enjoyment came from watching the elevators and pressing buttons. He also loved running down the long hallways and decks. You know, that's OK, because he was engaged in his surroundings in his way. I loved every moment I had with him and Diana on that giant boat.
The next morning, we had to get up very early, as our breakfast time was 6:45 a.m. On the plus side, it meant seeing our servers one more time, and not having to serve ourselves! They started to disembark at 7:15. Again, keep in mind that the ship would start boarding again at 11 that morning, and do it all again.
Our flight out was at noon, so we didn't screw around. We said our goodbyes to family, and headed out around 7:30. You could leave your bag in the hall the night before, and pick it up in the terminal, but since we only had one large suitcase, we handled it ourselves. We were through customs by 7:40. I think this is reason enough to let Disney take over the federal government. The efficiency was remarkable.
Kara picked us up minutes later, and dropped us off at MCO around 8:45, with plenty of time to spare. We were through security by 9:30.
So the trip I never would have thought to take was awesome. While I've always thought of cruise ships as big germ factories, the Disney Dream was super clean, and they did their best to make sure you were clean, especially heading into eating areas. I would have liked one more night, but we had a great time. The Bahamas honestly don't interest me, but the ship itself is in this case quite an attraction. I think the Mediterranean itineraries might be a little much for us at this point, but I could definitely do one of these, or one to Alaska. I'm sold on Disney. They nailed it in almost every way.